Disarmament Campaigns

By Disarmament Campaigns | 1989-10-01 12:00:00

European Elections: New Chance for Peace Movements?

Should European peace movements bother about the European Parliament (EP) elections when the overwhelming majority decides not to vote? They should. The third direct election of the European Parliament has happened under remarkably changing international relations: Soviet disarmament proposals; the final document of the Helsinki review conference in Vienna (held January 1989) and the conventional stability talks; new forms of political participation in the USSR; the election results in Poland; and the debate about Hungarian neutrality clearly indicate that the vision of an undivided Europe is back on the political agenda.

The upcoming five years will strongly influence further development in the European Community. Some observers say that almost 80 percent of the crucial political decisions will soon be decided by the Parliament -- and these decisions will be legally binding on all member countries. Nevertheless, the elections had a referendum-like character involving national politics, and turned out to be unfavourable for the governing parties in most member countries. Even the most sophisticated public relations work cannot sell a Parliament which resembles something from the 19th century, with the political oligarchy of the Commission and the Council, which in the end are the decision-making institutions.

The election results are both good news and bad news. The bad news is the considerable increase of right-wing parties in the Parliament, especially in Flanders, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. They have exploited social tensions which voters see as the result of an increase in the immigration of workers -- something which is supposed to deteriorate with the implementation of the internal market in 1992. This right-wing opposition to the European Community (EC) and its integration process is based on chauvinism. The good news is the slight numerical majority of "progressive" forces in the Parliament which may be able to counterbalance the centre-right commission. The results in Great Britain could indicate the tide is turning: the international struggle within the Conservatives, Thatcher's clumsy attempt to accuse the Parliament's bureaucracy of being "socialist" and the voters being fed up with ten years of Thatcherism meant a loss of a third of their seats in the European Parliament. More surprising were the two million votes the Green Party got, despite the fact that the British election system gave them no chance of getting a seat.

This result may encourage the recent citizens' initiative to revise the election system. It underlines the overall trend that strengthens Green-Alternative parties, so the second Rainbow Group (the coalition of EP Green parties) will be much more colourful than the first one, with strong representation from France and Italy and, for the first time, members from Greece, Portugal and Ireland. The Communist group, though strengthened as well, is divided around many issues.

The last Parliament set the tone for future debate about peace and security issue: the INF treaty meant support for a stronger NATO European pillar. The EC, including the Parliament, started to deal with the euphemistically called "political and economical aspects" of security matters in the early '80s. This often meant a big coalition between Social- and Christian Democrats, smoothing the way towards a political union and a revised role for the armaments industry in the future Community. The internal market, designed by big industry and aimed at providing easier access to the combined market of 32 million consumers, is a blueprint for more cooperation in arms procurement, research and development technologies for both civilian and military purposes. These attempts may weaken the legal controls on arm exports and so undermine the struggle of arms exports campaigns for stricter bans on arms sales.

Although it remains to be seen just how quickly these tendencies materialise, it can be said that the Parliament has used its influence on security thinking in a very traditional and NATO-centred way. There is strong pressure to transform the Community into a closed club for NATO-members only. This would make any move towards overcoming the military alliances in Europe more difficult, and take nuclear deterrence as a basis.

This debate will return in autumn when Austria is expected to request joining the Community as a neutral country (thanks to a referendum, Austria stopped its nuclear energy programme). The question is whether Austria could help build a bridge towards Central and Eastern Europe, which would allow transforming the EP into a genuine Helsinki parliament before the end of the century. Given the reality of the Community, this is an idealistic perspective, but peace movements have a vital interest in keeping this option open. Hopefully Green-Alternative parties will use their stronger voice to help prevent the disastrous effects the internal market will have on the environment -- there have been some interesting past examples when a coalition between the EP and the Commission have brought about stricter regulations. Banning social and ecological dumping will be two key tasks of the new Parliament.

Thanks to a 1987 agreement between the Community and the COMECON (the East European economic community), regular delegations between the two will take place. Peace movements should encourage such possibilities in order to build new links based on their experience with detente from below. The democratic reality of the Community should not allow any false applause about positive developments in Eastern European countries. We should give more attention to the future developments in the EP and support all attempts to introduce glasnost and perestroika there.

by Christine Merkel of Pax Christi, Celebesstraat 60, 2585 TM The Hague, NETHERLANDS. Tel. 070 507 100.

Spanish Peace Movements

NATO, and especially the US, seems intent upon strengthening its Southern flank and in seeing the Arab world more and more as the "enemy." The US 6th Fleet, which patrols the Mediterranean carrying a minimum of 300 to 500 nuclear warheads, has a dual mission: to maintain an offensive position both towards the USSR and towards the Middle East, Libya, and Syria in particular. Speakers at this year's END Convention emphasised, given this context, the important role of the Spanish peace movement in bringing peace to the Mediterranean. Spanish peace researcher Mariano Aguirre called the Mediterranean "the eye of the hurricane" for low intensity conflicts.

Most peace activists outside Spain are familiar with two of the main foci of the Spanish peace movement: the anti-NATO movement and the campaign to get US troops and bases out. The anti-NATO campaign began in 1980, the same year the movements against deployment took off in most West European countries. Thanks to Franco's death, Spain was about to join NATO just when the Euromissile crisis was throwing NATO into a crisis. The Socialist Party, currently in power, promised a referendum on Spain's membership in NATO when they campaigned in 1982.

Some activists believe the Spanish peace movement has yet to fully recover from the 1986 referendum. In a manipulative media campaign which still angers many people, the government linked membership in NATO with membership in the European Community (EC). Voters elected to stay in NATO, on three conditions: if the government did not allow nuclear weapons to be introduced or installed in Spain, if there was a progressive reduction in US troops, and if Spain did not join NATO's integrated military structure.

Speaking at a special three-part workshop on Spanish defence policy, Juan Manuel Paton, a town council member of a local nuclear-free municipality, said it was a mistake to speak of US bases in Spain. "Spain is a US base," he emphasised. "The US wants Spain available as a rear guard, for reserves, storage and disembarkment site for US troops. The recent US/Spanish bases agreement violates the referendum because there is no real 'progressive reduction' in US troops." The US/Spanish agreement, concluded in December of last year, renewed the two countries' military cooperation. Spain also applied for membership in the Western European Union around this time, again using the argument that the country must become integrated into the EC's defence structures if it wants to enjoy EC economic benefits.

There are four major US military bases in Spain and several communication facilities. Rota is a large naval base, where 4,500 US sailors belonging to the 6th Fleet are stationed. Torrejon, site of an annual peace march which draws between 20,000 to 40,000 people, is the home of the F-16 fighter planes which the US will transfer to Crotone, in Italy -- where they could easily reach the Warsaw Pact countries of Hungary or Poland. Fighter pilots train at the Zaragoza base, which also serves KC-135 tankers and Moron is a US Air Force base. Peace movements in Italy, Hungary and Spain support the trilateral initiative announced in Madrid on 14 April that offers military withdrawals in Hungary if the F-16s are not deployed in Italy.

The Spanish peace movement is also dealing with Spain's colonial past. 1992 will mark the 500th anniversary of the "discovery" of the Americas by white Europeans. The Spanish government is making elaborate and expensive preparations to commemorate the event. Peace groups are protesting this, arguing that the extermination and enslavement of indigenous Americans is not a cause for celebration. Latin America's foreign debt and the appropriation of its resources by Europe and North America also give little reason for celebration. Peace movements hope to use the 500th anniversary to make links with American Indian groups.

Spain is still involved militarily with former North African colonies. A representative of the Polisario Front said the current war between the Democratic Republic of West Sahara and Morocco "began in 1975 when Spain abandoned the colony." Polisario wants the 10,000 Spanish troops in the area to be withdrawn, and direct negotiations with the Moroccan government to begin. "There will be no stability in the Mediterranean area until this conflict is resolved," he said.

Spanish weapons exports to the Third World is another focus of the peace movement. Egypt and Iran are the most important customers for the Spanish armaments industry, followed by Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Spain sold 300,000 bombs to Iran during the Iran/Iraq war, the Spanish magazine Al Magallan revealed. Two tons of chemical weapons used in a 1984 Iraqi attack against the Midjun Islands were shipped through the US base at Torrejon, according to another account. Arms sales to Latin America, especially Chile, have also been extensive. Over 300,000 million pesetas were sold to the Pinochet government between 1980 and 1987. Arms have also been sold to Argentina, Brazil and Peru, among other countries. The peace movement has become increasing involved in organising to stop the Spanish arms trade.

Another important sector of the peace movement is the Movement of Conscientious Objectors (MOC). Since 1977, MOC has organised thousands of COs to resist conscription. Spain will be the focus of next year's International CO Day, May 1990, organised by War Resisters' International.

Sweden To Ban Port Calls?

Sweden may become the next New Zealand, in the fall of 1990, if the Swedish peace movement has its way. For the last year the movement has concentrated on making the issue of port calls by nuclear capable ships a public issue, with much success. Three parliamentary parties (out of six) -- the Centre, the Greens and the Communists -- are now working to ban port calls, and members of the Social Democracy Party and local Swedish governments are debating the issue. We will need international input to win.

In April two top government officials, Pierre Schori and Jan Nygren of the Foreign and Defence Departments, published a criticism of politicians who were involved in the debate. They used "international" arguments, such as the following: the Nordic "balance" (read "status quo") would be destroyed and other Nordic countries would react negatively to a unilateral Swedish step (Iceland has already banned nuclear port calls); a ban would also undermine Sweden's position at the Vienna talks and the UN, which are the proper fora for discussions on naval nuclear weapons; it is in Sweden's interests to have NATO exercises in the Baltic, as that discourages the Soviets; Sweden has a great need to visit other countries with its Navy and that would be impossible if nuclear ships were banned from Swedish ports (Sweden's Navy makes about three visits to Scandinavian countries every year, and one every second year to the UK).

These official arguments support nuclear deterrence. This is despite the fact that the USSR is pointing to a 50 percent cut in their new fleet in only ten years. Gorbachev has submitted several disarmament proposals for the superpower forces in the Nordic area. Instead of making use of these new possibilities, the Nordic nations are active in armament programmes. Sweden and Finland are involved in a new military build up, while Norway is planning new port installations to increase the presence of nuclear-armed aircraft carriers in the Nordic seas. In Iceland the air base capacity is being expanded.

Swedish peace activists are now planning to influence the political parties congresses over the next two years, especially the Social Democrats, which will be held in the fall of 1990. We need, as a first step, for you to make your organisation aware that there is a chance that we can win the debate on port calls in Sweden. Please follow the developments and write articles for your information channels. Tell doves in your parties, churches, labour unions, etc., that it is time to contact their Swedish correspondents.

At this stage it would also be helpful for us to be able to quote either aggressive NATO military officials and politicians who say a Swedish port call ban would make it impossible for NATO to train for the important nuclear strategy in the Baltic, or NATO military people who say that Swedish acceptance of the neither-confirm-nor-deny policy is crucial for NATO nuclear strategy. We also want to know of any NATO military people or well known politicians who would respect a Swedish unilateral decision (or be forced to), and who say a ban would have no effect on how they would treat Swedish port calls.

by Cilla Lundström of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Brannkykagatan 76, 117 23 Stockholm, SWEDEN. Tel. 08 582 312. Fax 08 668 1870.

DISARMAMENT CAMPAIGNS is published from its office at Anna Paulownaplein 3, Post Box 18747, 2502 ES, The Hague, Netherlands. Tel. 07045 35 66. Editor: Shelley Anderson. Ed. Staff: Renate Durnbaugh, Birgit Gaffney.

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1989

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1989, page 26. Some rights reserved.

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